State has spent $214 million helping families save their homes - WNEM TV 5

State has spent $214 million helping families save their homes

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Michigan native Dean Franchi was a step behind in 2012 and at risk of losing the only home his five children had ever known when he discovered Michigan State Housing Development Authority’s Step Forward Program.

In the homebuilding industry himself, Franchi was hit doubly hard when his employer began downsizing and eventually laid him off. 

“I was the last person to get laid off at the company I worked for,” Franchi said, “and when I applied for unemployment I learned about the Step Forward Program.”

In July 2010 Michigan received $498.6 million in federal Hardest Hit Funds (HHF) in response to the housing crisis that led to an unprecedented decline in home prices and high unemployment. MSHDA created the Michigan Homeowner Assistance Housing Corporation (MHA) to oversee distribution of the funds through a program called Step Forward Michigan.

“The Step Forward program has helped unemployed and under-employed people remain in their homes and in our state as they searched for new jobs as our state recovered,” Gov. Rick Snyder said. “That’s important for families who were struggling as our state started its recovery.” 

When Franchi learned about the program he was a single father. The loss of his Farmington Hills home would have threatened the custody of his kids, aged five to 13 at the time. 

“I’ll never forget when I got the phone call telling me I qualified for assistance,” Franchi said, “I just started crying. It literally changed our lives. As a father, it gave me a sense of security knowing that we would be able to get through this and I would be able to provide for my family.”

Step Forward has helped more than 27,250 Michigan families keep their homes since it became the first program in the nation to disburse funds on behalf of a homeowner in 2010. 

The program has made more than $171 million in mortgage disbursements and paid in excess of $70 million for outstanding property taxes, putting dollars directly into local communities.

In December 2013, the Step Forward program hit another milestone. It became the first to allocate HHF toward blight elimination. Michigan’s Blight Elimination Program has assisted with the demolition of more than 5,000 abandoned homes in 16 communities and has disbursed upwards of $70 million for blight elimination efforts.
“Michigan’s success with the Step Forward program has been a tremendous example of our mission to invest in people and places,” said Kevin Elsenheimer, executive director at MSHDA. “We genuinely care about saving homes and stabilizing neighborhoods to build strong and sustainable communities.”

Franchi said he still has a hard time describing how much it meant to him that the Step Forward staff didn’t make him feel needy.

“They are just the greatest people. I was treated so well, and with so much respect, it was surprising,” he said. “I never felt like a burden, I felt like the State really wanted to help me and my family.”

With renewed confidence that his home was stabilized, Franchi found a new job in the homebuilding industry and worked to get his family back on their feet. He even got remarried. 

“If my story does anything to help more people get the help they need, I’m happy to share it,” Franchi said. “A home is where you raise a family, it’s where your life is.”

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